the age-old debate: mac vs. pc

I need a new computer. Why? Well, my current computer looks like this:

How did that happen, you ask? On the night of my Oral Assessment, I fell asleep with it in my bed watching The West Wing. I woke up to find the computer on the floor, with a few tiny red lines in the corner. Ugh. Although maybe it was a good thing: not passing the OA wasn’t an option, as I knew those lines would forever remind me of my failure.

Over the next few months the lines spread, and they still seemed to be taunting me. When you’re not granted a medical clearance and your dreams of the Foreign Service die, we’ll still be here. Fortunately all went well and the lines don’t hold any negative association; however, they’ve spread to be more like red globs, and they’re proving problematic in other ways. They’ve overtaken important parts of my screen, for instance. (When I need to know the time, I have to Google “time NYC.”)

So, it’s probably time for a new computer, but I can’t decide what to get. Here are the standings:

Team Mac

  • Aesthetically cooler
  • More user-friendly (as least for a user that’s me)
  • Tend to last longer
  • Small Federal employee discount

Team PC

  • Cheaper
  • Allegedly easier to service around the world, especially in hardship sort of places
  • What State uses

Any important things I’m overlooking?

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9 Responses to the age-old debate: mac vs. pc

  1. Abby says:

    I’m telling you, you should get a netbook. It’s changed my life. And besides, buying a PC shows your appreciation for all the good Mr. Gates has done for us as a species.

  2. FSOwannabe says:

    From my experience overseas, Macs are great for translation work; but otherwise the PCs have it – much easier to get repaired or upgraded (and don’t forget software) than finding a place that handles Macs.

  3. EH says:

    I bought my first Mac when my PC died during A-100. I like the Mac, but there are inconveniences too.

    Consider these other issues:
    (+) I have heard (but not confirmed) that Mac warranties are more permissive of globe-trotting, whereas PC warranties tend to only be honored in the U.S.

    (+) A surprising number of countries have Mac service centers. (I was in a small Asian country with a 20 pct hardship differential, but there was still a Mac authorized agent.)

    (+/-) I’d estimate that about 1/2 of the language learning software that State uses has a Mac equivalent. (Of course, it varies by language.) For the rest, you may want to invest in running Parallels (etc.) or just use one of the computers in the language lab.

    (-) In many countries, tech people (such as the Embassy staff, local ISP technicians, etc.) will have never used a Mac before, so you need to be sufficiently independent to be able to translate “How to…” do something on a PC into “How to…” do it on a Mac. I remember the guys who came to set up my home wireless connection scratching their head when they saw my computer. Considering that you are already Mac-proficient, I don’t think that this would be a problem.

    (+) You can buy a set of nifty little replacement parts that change the shape of the Mac’s power plug – no hassles with carrying a separate power adapter.

  4. EH says:

    Oh, I should add that you can get software discounts on all sorts of Microsoft products. So the professional discount isn’t just for Macs.

  5. shannon says:

    My husband seems to spend an awful lot of time fussing with virus software on his and our sons PC while my mac happily does it’s thing virus free.

  6. Jen says:

    My Mac book is about the same age as the PC my husband ‘built’. It has been nearly problem free for over 3 years, whereas the PC seems to have issues on a daily basis, and we can’t take much more.

    My husband is going to Iraq for a year this summer, so he will get a cheap laptop, my daughter will get my old Mac book, and I will get a Mac desktop. I have no doubt it will make it through several tours.

    Have fun shopping (but I’d go with a Mac!)!

  7. Emily H says:

    We’ve decided to switch our office to Macs – I just picked up my Macbook Pro yesterday. Our main reason for the switch was actually ease of service overseas. I’ve found it impossible to get a PC warranty honored overseas, and am tired of wondering just how many more random black screens of death I should deal with before making an investment in a new computer (which will undoubtedly exhibit similar symptoms in less than a year).

    I bought the three year warranty with my Macbook Pro, which the Mac people say entitles me to visit the service center in Beirut free of charge. If I should find my computer on the fritz somewhere without a service center, they will send me a box with which I can mail it back to them to get it fixed up.

    We were concerned about compatibility with networks at client sites, especially those without on-site IT support. This is still a bit of a worry. However, either the warranty or the One to One training package ($99 for a year) provides phone support to walk us through getting set up wherever we are. Of course this assumes a phone connection to the US. So we’ll see how this goes.

    I’ve spent all of 10 minutes on my Mac and would definitely recommend going with a Mac. However, I’ve been dealing with Vista for 2 years, an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I hear that Windows 7 is much improved.

    Good luck!

  8. E.M. Dyer II says:

    Mac 100%. I have been in IT for years and I can say folks using Macs experience issues, but more of a “Why is my seven year old Mac dying so soon.” vs a “I have another virus” that PC users get. Go for a refurbished Mac to get the best deal.
    Good luck!

  9. Alex says:

    Thanks for all the feedback! I’m somewhere around 97% sure I’m going to go for a Mac. Which, as you might have guessed, it what I really wanted to do all along. =) Once we’re done with our pack out (coming up Tuesday), I’ll further weigh the pros and cons of new vs. refurbished and then go for it.

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